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Ask DSM Readers: How Do You Save On Printer Ink and Paper?

by Tara Kuczykowski on May 13, 2010 · 85 comments


It's been a long time since I've done an "Ask DSM Readers" post. I know I've always found these posts valuable because I love hearing your tips, tricks, and perspectives, so this will become a regular Thursday post. If you have a question that you'd like me to share, I'd love to hear from you!

Onto the question for this week -- I'd love to hear your favorite ways to save on printer ink and paper. Obviously printable coupons are a fantastic way to save on your grocery bill, but do you ever wonder if the cost of printing them is worth the savings? Printer ink and paper can get downright expensive, especially if you have kids like mine that are always walking off with paper for their "art projects".

So how do you save on printer ink and paper? Have you tried refilling printer ink cartridges? Has anyone tried some of the downloadable software that claims to reduce the amount of ink used? Do you have any tips for recycling printer paper?

{ 85 comments… read them below or add one }

1 deb May 14, 2010 at 7:21 am

I have tried the refillable cartridges....they only last 1/3 as long and they messed up my printer so it would not function properly. So in the long run I did not save money at all and gained aggrivation. I do return my cartrides and get a ream of paper for each 3 I return to Office max or Office depot. I also am careful to turm my paper over and run it through the printer again when I know a coupon only prints at the top of a page, therefore, giving me two coupons per page instead of just one, which would use twice as much paper.

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2 Tara June 24, 2010 at 2:38 am

I turn my paper over sometimes, too. But I've had to learn the hard way not to do that when I'm printing coupons from a brand's own site. Often, the coupon prints at the bottom, beneath an advertisment, so I end up with a 2-sided coupon! And let me tell you from experience, NO store will take it & let you use BOTH sides! LOL

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3 Jaime May 14, 2010 at 8:54 am

I go to Staples to get my copy paper and only buy it when there are Staples Easy Rebates or Staples Rewards. I just recently started doing this - don't know why I waited so long!

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4 MaryEllen@TheDealScoop May 14, 2010 at 1:15 pm

A laser printer has proven to be a worthwhile investment for me. I print and print and print and I have only had to replace the starter toner so far (after a couple years of printing an average of 7 pages a day!) I have a Brother HL5250DN.

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5 Jessica May 14, 2010 at 7:50 pm

I second this! I can get around 3000 pages off of one toner cartridge. I can generally get paper free at staples or for <$1. :)

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6 Larry June 14, 2010 at 2:15 am

Laser pritners usually are the best bang for your buck, but the up front costs are pretty high. You can usually pick up a decent black and white printer for $100-$150 and the toner cartridges are around $75-$200 per cartridge, just depends typically on the page yield of the cartridge, a cartridge that only does 2,500 pages won't cost as much as one that does 10,000 pages(which are usually in the larger, business type printers).
What I tell my customers in my store is if you are going through a ream of paper a month(500 sheets) or more, then you should invest in a laser printer if not, I recommend sticking with a inkjet printer. The brand I always recommend is HP though.

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7 Lisa May 14, 2010 at 1:30 pm

If I am only printing 1 coupon, I tear my paper in half, sometimes if I tear it in 3rds it is to small to feed through my printer. By doing this I save ink because I don't have to print all the advertisements at the bottom of the page and then I use the other half when I hit the back button to print the coupon twice. I have saved tons of ink this way. You will notice how short or long to tear your paper depending on your printer. I also use left over paper that my husband brings home from work and I try to only print in black. Hope this little tip helps someone.

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8 Don April 22, 2013 at 7:37 pm

If the coupon is a separate image, in Firefox (at least with my settings and add-ons), you can right click on it and select Same Image As. If you really want to go all the way, you can open up a word processing document and include several different images from different web pages and print them all out at once.

Of course, most word processors will let you crop an image.

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9 Jessica-MomForHim May 14, 2010 at 2:39 pm

I have set the default on my printer to print in B&W on the draft setting. If a coupon prints only on the top of the page, I cut directly underneath the coupon, which leaves room for 2 more coupons to print off. My kids love to doodle, too, so if a "doodle" is not important to them, I'm allowed to turn it into coupons. I also use the back of junk mail (if there is nothing personal on the back). And I refill my cartridges at Walgreens when they go on sale for $10, with the exception of Earth Day when they were on sale for $1! I was able to get 3 refilled for a total of $3!

Some of my readers have said they've been told they can't use B&W coupons because they could be copies. I found some copied coupons that someone left behind at the grocery store, so I grabbed them and taped them to my coupon folder. You can clearly see a difference between my printed coupons and the copied coupons. If anyone ever accuses me, I'll politely ask them to run and make a copy of the coupon quickly (every store has a copier), and see if they look the same (there is like a "watermark" that you can barely see on a printed coupon, but clearly shows up on a copied coupon).

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10 Amanda M May 14, 2010 at 4:58 pm

I also invested in a laser printer. Got one on sale at best buy and the remanufactured cartridges go as low as $20 and last up to 2600 pages. I buy paper in bulk. When Staples had the two boxes for a few dollars I got that so I have paper forever. But I still grab reams whenever they are free... anything free is good. If I can't use it there is always someone who can.

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11 Savemoki May 14, 2010 at 8:01 pm

I have a brother 490 CW wireless, all in one (printer, scanner, photocopier, fax machine w/media card plug in) which I picked up at Staples about a year ago for $89.00 (by combining a Staples coupon from their weekly insert w/price matching, Office Depot had the unit on sale that week.) As for the ink cartidges, I buy them at Fry's Electronics, and pay $7.99 a cartridge for the G&C Eco Saver off-brand. I am a full time student so I print alot, and typically one cartridge last me 3 months. Not to bad for the price!

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12 Leon Ink May 15, 2010 at 5:14 am

One way of saving, which isn't actually saving it's more recycling and you get money for it at the end, is to sell your used ink cartridges. Paper can be made cheaper by using the stuff that isn't made from trees.

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13 JRS May 15, 2010 at 9:20 am

I wait until refills for cartridges go on sale at Walgreens and get them refilled then. I've found the Officemax store brand not to work well on my printer. The refills seem to work just fine.

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14 Karen C. May 20, 2010 at 10:31 am

I have been learning a few tricks to save a little while printing coupons, some which have been mentioned here.

1. When I print a coupon and it doesn't use the whole sheet, I reuse the 1/2 page leftover for the next coupons.
2. When on a coupon site, I try to always print at least 3 coupons at a time to use the whole sheet of paper.
3. I have just started printing coupons on the reverse side of paper already used, such as when I printed something by mistake, but not on anything that has personal information on it. Have not had a coupon turned away for this yet and most coupons you clip have something on the back, so no difference.
4. I only print my coupons in black and white, no color.
5. I use the draft (I think it's called) option instead of high quality, which also saves on ink/toner.
6. I use ink cartridges and any time I need ink, as I do now, I try to make sure they're on sale and also look for coupons.
7. I haven't yet, but am going to try to start ordering my ink online if I'm able to get it at a better price.
8. Buy the cheapest paper you can find. You don't have to have high quality paper to print your coupons.

That's all I can think of right now, but I'm sure there are many other readers that will add to the growing list of hints. I know I am going to reread the comments again to see if I missed any helpful hints. (smile)

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15 Kathy V June 9, 2010 at 11:33 am

Join Staples Rewards program.....$3 for each returned cartridge (to a max of 3 per month?). You will receive a rebate check to use for future purchases. You will also receive % back for paper and ink purchases.
I agree with all of the above except putting shorter pieces of paper in the printer. I was told the ink still "prints" on itself (on the roller) so no ink is saved.
We inherited an HP LaserJet and print the majority of things in B&W on that printer. Faster and cheaper. Invest in one. The cartridge was $100+ but lasts forever.
I also save the good printer paper for letters and school projects. I use Scrap paper and cheap Staples ("store brand") paper for coupons and all else.
Never tried re-filling since I heard it doesn't last as long. Will try Walgreens though.
Also, I don't let the kids print full page color stuff from the kids' websites.....what a waste of ink. The picture usually sits for a bit and then gets recycled.

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16 Don April 22, 2013 at 7:42 pm

If a store won't give me a discount without a loyalty card, I don't shop in that store. Loyalty cards are too intrusive, and they're used to gather data to help the store raise prices.

BTW, a survey of grocery store chains in Massachusetts found that all of the stores that use loyalty cards are more expensive than all of the stores that don't.

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17 Larry June 14, 2010 at 2:24 am

For those who are thinking about refilling ink cartridges to save money, I can say that they work, for most people. I'm alittle biased, I own and run an ink cartridge refill store, and I know they work or I wouldn't be in business anymore.
Now, that being said, not all ink refill stores are equal, just like anything else. I get alot of customers from Walgreen's and OfficeMax that tried them and had horrible results. The piece of advice that I will give on getting them refilled is to take them in shortly after they go empty. Don't throw them in the desk drawer and forget about them for 6 months, then take them out and expect them to be refilled without any problems. The ink drys inside the cartridge and they won't refill properly(usually they won't last as long). I print all of my own flyers and coupons myself and I can typically refill my own cartridges and my customers cartridges on average of 4 to 5 times before I sell them a remanufactured cartridge.
Sorry about my little rant here, thought I would put in my 2 cents.

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18 Beth D June 27, 2010 at 5:44 pm

I use paper that has been printed on one side only. I have used school flyers and papers, scrap paper that my husband brings home from work and various other paper is only paper printed on one side. Lightly colored paper works too. Before I place the paper in the printer I make sure all staples are removed and the sheets have no folds. and not wrinkled.

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19 pitt September 29, 2010 at 7:20 pm

do the ink cartridges go on sale at Rite Aid?

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20 Michelle June 4, 2011 at 3:16 am

I order my ink online at inkforsale.net and pay 3.50 per cartridge. I have a brother all-in-one that takes 4 cartridges (black, yellow, cyan, magenta). It totals about $18-20 for a complete set. Been using them a couple years now and have had good luck. I get paper from the $stores for about $1-2.

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21 Sheila October 21, 2011 at 2:29 pm

I finally bought a laser printer for
$40.00. I also found a way to "override" the computer chip in the printer to get alot more prints out of the cartridge. Cartridges I can get for $25.00 of the internet. What saves me ALOT is using paper from fax cover sheets, blank forms, junk mail, etc. It's free and no personal information on it. It keeps me stocked so I never, ever have to buy paper.

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22 dina November 13, 2011 at 11:04 am

How do you do that?

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23 melinda December 5, 2011 at 10:30 pm

Try to buy the ink from walmart when you know you are going to have some overage. i once got ink for 3.00, when it really cost 13.98.

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24 ..... December 9, 2012 at 8:11 pm

my cartridges cost 50 cents each.

I refill plain and simple. it's so easy I can't believe anyone wouldn't, but while i'm saving hundreds of dollars i'm laughing all the way to the bank.

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